Sam Massell, ‘Mayor of Buckhead,’ retires from Buckhead Coalition

Sam Massell. (Hyosub. Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

After leading the Buckhead Coalition for more than 30 years, former Atlanta Mayor Sam Massell has announced that he will retire later this year from the organization he founded in 1988.

Massell, 92, came to be known as the 'Mayor of Buckhead' because of his work in that community. He was the real mayor of Atlanta from 1970-74, and told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Wednesday that he plans on spending more time with his bride — Sandra Gordy, who he married in 2016.

“It’s been just a few years since I’ve been married,” Massell said. “I’m thinking about the future and enjoying some more of what life has to offer. We are cruise junkies — I’ve been on about 80. So we’ll probably be doing some cruising.”

Massell’s retirement announcement came as a surprise to the 180 guests in attendance at Wednesday’s Buckhead Coalition luncheon. But Massell likes surprises.

He and Sandra kept their wedding under wraps, as well. "No one — not Gordy's sister Ginger Heath, not Massell's children Melanie Jacobs, Cindy Massell and Steve Massell, not any of their friends or business associates — knew about the ceremony ahead of time," the AJC reported at the time.

Massell led the city at a pivotal time, and his administration is credited with establishing MARTA, the Omni Coliseum and Woodruff Park. He also had successful careers in real estate and tourism.

“I’ve been blessed with a good job and good health,” Massell said. “I thought I’d spend 10 or 15 years with the Coalition and it’s been 33 years.”

Former Atlanta City Councilwoman Mary Norwood, who is now chairwoman of the Buckhead Council of Neighborhoods, said Massell served with “distinction and honor.”

“Although he is stepping down as President of the Coalition, I hope he continues to stay involved in the affairs of our community,” Norwood said. “His leadership has been and will continue to be important and cherished by our community and city.”